GARDEN MYSTERY: Dozens of birds dying daily
IN JUST over a week, more than 80 birds have died and Wildlife Rockhampton has been overwhelmed by the dozens they now must nurse back to health.
The cause remains a mystery as a Queensland Government department investigates the spate of deaths at Rockhampton's Botanic Gardens.
Wildlife Rockhampton's rescue coordinator Svetlina Mitin said the organisation had never seen the likes of this before, with over 100 baby and fledgling egrets found dead or injured at the popular park.
Ms Mitin said a call from a teenage boy on Saturday, March 4 alerted them to the event.
She said the 13-year-old begged for help for the dead and suffering birds he had found at the gardens.
That weekend, wildlife rescue volunteers found at least 60 dead egrets which had fallen from their nests.
Rockhampton Regional Council stepped in to clean up and dispose of the corpses on Monday, March 6 after Ms Mitin contacted them.
But Wildlife Rockhampton and RSPCA were left to rescue the live birds.
Ms Mitin said the birds would suffer and die if left out of the nest, away from the protection and care of parents, and could be cruelly attacked by predators.
"The problem we have with that is they're coming down any time," she said.
"We can't be there all day every day, but as fast as we leave they can be on the ground and RSPCA is in the same boat."
Although many birds have been found alive, Ms Mitin said about 20 of those had to be euthanased by a vet.
She is personally caring for almost 30 birds and volunteers are making multiple trips to the gardens daily to search for other injured egrets of various sizes.
While the birds they've saved have been fed recently, Ms Mitin said many were emaciated.
Investigations into the cause continue, but Ms Mitin said extreme heat and some impurities in the lagoon may have contributed to the deaths.
"The trouble is we didn't have a proper wet season so there's no fresh water in the lagoon," she said.
"There's no run off so whatever is in there stays there."
Ms Mitin said bread fed to ducks could also pollute the water and affect the food sources of the egrets.
"We've never had anything like this before," she said.
"It's overwhelming us."
Councillor Drew Wickerson said extra council officers were patrolling the gardens over the weekend to clean up the deceased birds.
He said the investigation was not expected to reveal anything like a virus, but was necessary given the high number of deaths.
"It might be a natural thing... but that doesn't take away the distress of people visiting," he said.
"When they're on the ground they've very susceptible to other predators.
"That's really distressing to witness, even though it may be how nature works."